Our river cruise was really great. Hope this review does not become too much of a love fest, but we obviously enjoyed this adventure more than we even expected.
The trip from Bucharest/Black Sea to Budapest was an area of the world we had not seen. Avalon was one of few that actually started in Bucharest, went to Black Sea and then up Danube to Budapest. The area of the Danube Delta ecosystem is fascinating/well worth seeing.
Avalon Passion - simply put it is a first class ship. Quite new (2016) and it shows. All parts are really nicely laid out with plenty of room to move around/find your own space. Open air balconies are really nice for the categories.
Crew - A+. Every crew member went out of their way to be friendly/accommodating from the captain to all support staff. Friendly, professional and very competent. Started with the Captain who was happy to have guests in the Bridge for morning coffee to Deen, our waiter who took such good care of us at Dinner. Even the Chef took the time to give us a personal tour of the kitchen to show us how they turn out such fine meals
Food - Breakfast was good, Lunch was very good and Dinner was excellent. We were pleased with the freshness, quality and choices for the meals. Had a chance to eat regional dishes as well as familiar choices. Wine selections were quite acceptable. Seating was open so we were able to sit with different people and get to know a lot of our shipmates.
Excursions - They varied from good to outstanding. The way they broke us into manageable (25-30 or smaller) groups was very helpful. The guides were very knowledgeable. Danube Delta excursion, Veliko Tarnova, and Belgrade tours were outstanding. Belgrade guide was amazing, could have spent another day with her. Only improvement would have been on the all day excursions w/lunch off the boat we would have preferred less time spent on lunch/more time on tours.
This part of the world is quite interesting, not just for the scenery, but for the unusual history/recent history/communist control. Some of these countries are still very young and trying to develop. Also the region was interesting because you start with a definite Turkish influence and end with a Central Europe feel.
Shipmates - Perhaps my biggest and best unexpected discovery. We really enjoyed the chance to really get so many people from different countries. So many interesting people really wanting to travel/get to know other people. Had a great number of long dinner conversations and some real friendships made. Dress was casual throughout with jeans on tours and casual business attire for meals. Even the gala dinners were nice shirts/dress slacks/dresses with only a few suits/more formal dresses. No one seemed to really mind, pay much attention.
All in all a wonderful experience. River cruising is nothing like ocean cruising. So much more comfortable, civilized and interesting.
No question that this will not be our last river cruise, only the first of many.
We received an upgrade to a Panorama Suite on Sapphire Deck which was very nice. Cabin was well laid out and had sufficient room for the time we spent in it. Bed was excellent as was storage space. The wall-to-wall windows/open air balcony are tremendous and really make the cabin seem even larger. Bathroom was larger than expected/well appointed. A lot of thought went into these cabins and it shows. Outstanding. Probably would have been fine with the Deluxe stateroom since we spent very little awake time in the cabin, but sure enjoyed the larger cabin/view.
We hired a private guide, Sylvana Rapeanu, to show us around Bucharest. She did a really nice job of showing us the highlights/interesting areas of the city in one day. She was very flexible in what we wanted to see, plus a few of her favorites also. We walked through the Old Town area, heard the past recent history of Romania/Bucharest, visited the Synagogue which was better than expected, visited the Village Museum (again a "do not miss") and drove around city to see other major sites (Palace of Parliament, etc.) Wish we would have had more time, but Sylvana did a great job of explaining and getting the most out of our day.
Actually did the 1/2 day included city tour which did a fine job of an overview of the city in a couple of hours. Gave us enough so we could be on our own for the next couple of daysView All 353 City Tour Reviews